If your child has just been diagnosed with diabetes, the good news is that he can live a happy and healthy life. However, children with diabetes do face certain health challenges. Read on to learn some basics about diabetes in kids, and caring for kids with juvenile diabetes.
Understanding Juvenile Diabetes
Type 1, or juvenile diabetes, is a chronic condition that is caused when the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps move glucose from the food we eat out of the bloodstream and into the cells for energy.
Signs of diabetes in children include:
- Blurry vision
- Extreme hunger
- Genital yeast infections (in girls)
- Intense thirst and frequent urination
- Irritability and other behavioral changes
- Weight loss.
Children with Diabetes: Controlling Blood Sugar
Diabetes in children and adults has no cure, and is controlled by managing blood sugar levels. Here are a few blood sugar basics:
- Eating raises blood sugar levels.
- Exercise and insulin reduce blood sugar levels.
Even with proper diet and exercise, if your child has type 1 diabetes, she will always need to take insulin to stay healthy.
If your child is old enough, she’ll be taught to monitor blood sugar and give herself insulin injections. You’ll have to learn to do this for very young children, and be comfortable with these procedures in case you have to help an older child in an emergency.
Diabetes in Kids: Blood Sugar Challenges
Regular communication with your child’s doctor will insure that any necessary adjustments to diet and medication will be made right away. Sometimes, even with the best of treatment, problems with blood sugar can occur:
- High blood sugar (hyperglycemia): This problem can result from illness, inactivity, not enough insulin or too much food.
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia): Also known as insulin shock, low blood sugar can occur from too much insulin, eating too little, waiting too long to eat after a previous meal or too much exercise without eating.
In early stages, blood sugar imbalances can be treated with insulin (hyperglycemia), or sugar (hypoglycemia). You and your child will become familiar with the signs of blood sugar imbalances and be able to follow a doctor’s instructions to correct them. If your child loses consciousness or has a seizure, however, seek immediate medical attention.
Diabetic Kids at Home and School
Here are daily living tips for kids with diabetes:
- Always have some form of sugar available, in case of emergency.
- Be sure your child eats meals and snacks on schedule.
- Communicate with your child’s teachers to coordinate daily care, school trips and parties.
- Diabetic kids can play active sports. Since exercise lowers blood sugar, your child may need an extra snack before playing a sport, and exercise should not be timed right before a meal.
- Follow the diabetic diet of healthy meals and frequent snacks. Because a diabetic diet consists of foods that are good for everyone, the whole family can eat the same meals.
- Make sure your child has all necessary diabetic supplies at school.
- Your child should wear a diabetic identification necklace or bracelet.
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Canada. (2010). A child with type 1 diabetes is in your care. Retrieved May 2, 2010, from http://www.jdrf.ca/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage